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Democrat Heidi Heitkamp prevails in North Dakota in upset of the night

Who says Democrats can no longer win in the prairies of the Midwest?

The Democratic Party’s energetic, personable, and people-focused nominee for U.S. Senate in North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, appears to have won a surprising victory in one of the nation’s most conservative states.

Republicans had thought the Senate seat currently held by Kent Conrad was theirs for the taking when Conrad announced he wouldn’t run again. But their candidate, Rick Berg, is now 2,994 votes behind with 100% of precincts counted.

As of 1:45 AM Pacific Time, the results were as follows:

  • Republican Rick Berg: 49.31% (157,758 votes)
  • Democrat Heidi Heitkamp: 50.25% (160,752 votes)

On Twitter, Heitkamp declared victory, tweeting, “I am confident I am going to be the next United States Senator from North Dakota.”

Congratulations flowed in from supporters, though Heitkamp’s Republican opponent Rick Berg had yet to concede defeat.

Heitkamp’s campaign received attention from several national media outlets (including the New York Times) for its heavy emphasis on retail politics.

It’s evident from the results that Heitkamp worked pretty hard to secure votes for her candidacy. Mitt Romney crushed Barack Obama in North Dakota, 58% to 38% – and yet, North Dakotans are sending a Democrat to the Senate who has pledged to work constructively with the president, rather than adding another suit to Mitch McConnell’s obstructionist caucus.

Heitkamp’s victory is an unexpected hold for the Democrats. Our own Patty Murray, who was tasked with chairing the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee in 2012, had argued that Democrats were poised to do well in 2012 despite having a difficult map to work with. The results have vindicated her strategy and recruiting.

Murray’s job was made all the harder by the retirements of Conrad, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Jim Webb of Virginia, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico. But Democrats appear to have held on to all of those seats, except Nelson’s, which is pretty impressive.

3 Comments

  1. heidi
    Posted November 7th, 2012 at 8:15 AM | Permalink

    Try Kent Conrad’s seat was up, not Byron Dorgan…

  2. Tommy
    Posted November 7th, 2012 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

    It is Kent Conrad who is retiring, not Byron Dorgan. Sen. Dorgan retired in 2010.

  3. Andrew
    Posted November 7th, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the correction, Tommy and Heidi. I was pretty exhuasted when I wrote this post, and wrote Dorgan instead of Conrad. Mistake fixed.